In Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences, Lawrence Weschler writes about how the work of photographers and other artists seems to harken back to to the works by those who came before them. The book starts off by comparing images taken at the World Trade Center site after 9/11 to paintings by Dutch masters and Civil War photographs. I am only about half way through it, so I don't know his final conclusion. But, so far, he seems to waver between this being deliberate or that it could be attributed to “something in the water.”
This kind of came home to me this past weekend when I took an unposed photograph at an event where people were picnicking and some had dressed up for the occasion of celebrating “Champagne and Croquet”on a Sunday afternoon. Honestly, my first thought when I saw this guy was, ‘that reminds me of a French impressionist painting’, and I tried to frame the photo to replicate what I thought I remembered seeing sometime in the past.
The next day I spent a little time doing Internet searches to find the painting I had in mind, but could not find anything very close to it. This very famous painting by Georges Seurat, thanks to the figure in the lower lefthand corner, kind of works though.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – 1884
This got me to thinking that the convergence is not the artists duplicating each others work, but that people naturally arrange themselves in a certain manner. Whether it is a man lounging on the ground at a picnic, a woman smiling enigmatically, or a group of men taking a break after battle or sifting through rubble for bodies there are only so many poses that the human form will take. Thus, the photographer is merely capturing what is before them, not mimicking someone else. It is like they say about about writing, “There are only seven plots in the world and the ancient Greeks knew them all.”